DARIEN – Behind the counter at Heritage Food & Liquor, Bharat Bhagwakar greets some of his regulars with a smile and friendly conversation.
As owner of Heritage Food & Liquor for the past 10 years, the colloquial small talk has become just as routine as the daily 60-mile commute from his home in Streamwood to his work at Darien's Heritage Plaza shopping center.
For Bhagwakar, it's worth fighting traffic and incurring extra gas expenses because "[Darien] is the best community."
However, the liquor store that has been in the strip mall for a total of 30 years will be closing its doors July 6 and Bhagwakar will be unemployed, albeit not by choice.
"I have people coming up in front of me saying, 'Please don't leave,'" Bhagwakar said. "[And I don't want to leave]; this is my livelihood."
In May, the City of Darien, the former owner of the strip mall at 75th Street and Cass Avenue, sold the property to private developer Darien Pointe, LLC. for $1.2 million. As part of that sale agreement, the city developed a list of uses that would be prohibited in future development, including liquor stores and medical offices, among others.
In order for the property to be sold, a new developer had to agree to those terms.
"We're trying to find different uses in there and some that we deemed would be better types of uses in that strip center," City of Darien Administrator Bryon Vana said. "This has been focus of redevelopment for some time and we're trying to take measures to obviously improve the aesthetics of the building, but also have different types of uses that might be in that area."
All of the Heritage Plaza tenants were on a month-to-month lease with the city, and the business owners were notified of the sale as soon as the city approved the agreement and the lease requirements, according to Vana.
"I understood that the liquor store might look at some other type of business that just doesn't have liquor," he said. "I don't know if he's doing that or not, but that was something he had mentioned."
While Bhagwakar has expressed a desire to return to the strip mall and perhaps open a convenient store, he has not heard a response from the new developers.
The Heritage Food & Liquor store owner said he has not found an adequate place to relocate his business and, as a result, has no plans for after the store closes.
"They don't even think about me, they just to kicked me out like this," Bhagwakar said.
The Darien City Council is forbidding specific businesses from occupying a Heritage Plaza storefront because the area is "pretty saturated" with medical offices and liquor stores, Vana said.
"It was just the city's chance to say you know what, we want a different variety of businesses in there," he said. "We don't want the medical clinics, we don't want a liquor store, whether it's a Binny's or any other liquor store."
The City of Darien purchased strip mall in 2008 for $2.7 million and had leased out storefronts to various businesses such as Jim's Quality Meats, El Burrito Loco and Heritage Food & Liquors.
• Heritage Food & Liquors is now having a closing sale featuring 25 percent off all wine.
• Where: 7515 S. Cass Ave., Darien
• More info: 630-852-2464